Category Archives: Birds

Suburban wildlife in pictures

A few months ago I saw an article about a blog by a woman in Michigan who, using a device called Bird Photo Booth, posted dozens of close-up photos of birds. I looked up the device and saw that it was on back order. I knew that at some point I would buy it because it seemed perfect for me. I could mount it outside my attic window and feed birds during the day while watching the photos on my computer so I ordered it at the end of April. Earlier this week I got an email telling me that my Bird Photo Booth was on its way and should arrive today.

Unfortunately, even though the device has WiFi it is not the WiFi I thought it was, but WiFi to connect to a smartphone. Still, that’s better than the trailcam I bought last year, hoping to get fun photos of birds at the feeder or maybe other wildlife in our suburban backyard. None of my bird photos were very good, except the ones below.

Speaking of the trailcam — in early January, Dean mentioned that some critter had built a large and tidy nest under our side porch composed of leaves, vegetable skins and eggshells stolen from our compost bin. I researched it and came up with the conclusion that we had a opossum living under the porch. I was excited because they are good wildlife. I set up the trailcam to see the opossum in action.

a tidy nest made of compost
The “nest”

Dean, however, had a different idea and wanted to demolish the pile of compost which he did, some that day and more later in the week. He wasn’t happy about having a opossum living under our porch.

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During this time the trailcam collected some pretty cool images — with an early plot twist and a huge one at the end.

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So, it was not a opossum after all, but a boring nasty rat. Before we knew it was a rat Dean put out mothballs, thinking critters stay away from mothballs. It didn’t bother the rat.

Remember — we didn’t know anything about the critter until we looked at the photos several days later. I still thought we had a lovely opossum.

We also had other visitors to the “nest” area — a squirrel stopped by, also undeterred by the mothballs.

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Here are some night shots of our resident not-a-opossum.

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A curious house sparrow
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Another squirrel

More night shots.

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The final night shot that night is the climax to the story and the final plot twist.

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A fox arrived 3 minutes or so after the last rat sighting

We’re pretty sure the fox ate our rat for a early morning breakfast on January 9th. No more rats were picked up on the trailcam after that.

And now for the fun shots.

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While I was disappointed we didn’t have a opossum, I was grateful we had a fox to take care of the rat.

Anyway — watch this space for, hopefully, more birds. I promise I won’t show any more rats.

 

Birds, birds, birds

We went to Florida last month. I saw lots of birds. Dean went in the water every day. It was perfect.

We arrived on Sunday (it was supposed to be Saturday but our flight was cancelled because of the TSA agent’s suicide). We didn’t know the flight was cancelled until we arrived at National Airport and decided to fly out the next day instead of flying to another airport and driving to Orlando.

Sunday we went to Lake Apopka’s North Shore where we drove 11 miles around pools filled with hundreds of water birds. I didn’t get any good photos because I was talking to Clare for much of the drive. She and her boyfriend broke up and she was very sad.

On Monday we headed to Merritt Island, hoping to see painted buntings again like I did a few years ago — no luck this time however.

After searching for the painted bunting Dean wanted to go to the beach so we did. It was cold.

Cool and breezy day at the beach

We did see some birds, but not nearly as many as at Lake Apopka.

On Tuesday Dean went kayaking and my sister-in-law, Diane, went to an “elder learning” event at UCF. We first saw Dr. Luis Fred‘s trombone choir. I didn’t think I’d be very interested in a trombone choir but I really enjoyed it. I now know a lot more about trombones than I did before. After the trombone choir we heard Michael Greyeyes talk about being an indigenous actor (and professor) in a white world.

Dean went kayaking with ‘gators

Wednesday we went to Mt. Dora for lunch and then visited a museum to look at way-cool furniture that David Bowie owned. We also stopped at a springs so Dean could snorkel.

Thursday, Dean and I went to Flagler Beach in hopes of seeing a right whale, but all we saw were a few porpoises. We ate lunch at a sandwich shop that serves sandwiches inspired by main dishes. I had a “Venice” which was the sandwich version of chicken picatta and Dean had
“The Gulfport” which was stuffed with delicious Cajun spiced shrimp.

After lunch all we wanted to do was relax on a (warm this time) beach, so we did. Dean slept while I watched a woman fed peanuts to a ruddy turnstone.

Then we took a drive through Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area where we visited a memorial to Chief Tomokie. We also saw a couple more porpoises, a little blue heron and a turtle.

Finally, on Friday we went to Orlando Wetland Park and saw more birds (and gators).

It was great to get away and I only had to work one day (for two hours).

An ear-full of waxwings…

…or a museum if you prefer.

Cedar waxwings

Many years ago (eons in Internet age) I searched for an Internet name that suited me. Because I was into birding, I focused on avian handles. I tried “chickadee” but it was already taken in the places I wanted to join. I considered “painted bunting,” a bird I longed to see in person, but the name seemed a little suggestive. I finally settled on cedar waxwing because it was probably my favorite bird at the time, one I’d only seen a precious few times and one whose looks always made me smile. Cedar waxwings look like they are wearing cat-eye sunglasses.

Luckily for me no one else used the name “cedarwaxwing” or “Cedar waxwing” or even “waxwing” on any of the social media sites I was interested in joining. This continued for years, although I don’t think I was able to score a cedarwaxwing account at gmail. I did register a waxwing account there though and it has been my general email account since September 2004.

Over the years I have received a fair number of misdirected emails from people or companies that I had nothing to do with. Not of the SPAM variety, but genuine mistakes.

I have gotten emails from travel agencies with other people’s itineraries. I have gotten emails from personal trainers with complete workout instructions attached. I got an email thanking me for nominating a cyclist for an award.

I usually respond to the email and explain that they have the wrong email address. I rarely hear back. But recently I have had pleasant conversations with strangers concerning the mistake.

Elizabeth, for instance has sent me (thinking I am Kim and Jess) Easter, valentine, fourth of July and general catch-up emails. I responded each time, explaining I was not Kim and Jess. I never heard back until this year when I replied to the entire group, explaining that I was becoming concerned that Kim and Jess were not getting all the well-wishes. I immediately received an email from Elizabeth’s sister explaining that Elizabeth was not all that worldly when it came to emails. She promised to talk to Elizabeth and figure out Kim and Jess’ real email address. Elizabeth replied later, apologizing, but also saying she’d been using my email address for Kim and Jess for 10 years. That was Valentine’s day. I got another Easter email and just left it. Poor Kim and Jess.

In late February I received a confirmation of an order made by Kenneth of Swansea, Wales, UK for some light bulbs. Because there was no way to contact Kenneth by email since he used mine, I wrote him a letter and mailed it to him. I promptly forgot about it and was surprised, and touched that Kenneth sent me an email explaining the situation a couple of weeks ago:

Hi Dona,

Please accept my sincere apologies for the mix up when I used the wrong email address. You were very kind in taking the trouble to write to me.

Unfortunately, I mislaid your letter which had only now come to light.

I am a very keen birdwatcher, who, sadly has never seen a Waxwing. The bird has fascinated me since childhood so it seemed opportune to use it as an email address. You had beaten me to it with Google, so I added a “my…”. However, I recently bought a domain where I can use Wax.wing. I must have mixed things up when creating both the order and the separate history site. Sincere apologies again for causing you this trouble.

I hope you have managed to see Waxwings!

Regards

Paul

(In Wales, it is common to give your child two names, but use the middle one, hence I’m not known as Kenneth)

I replied that I’d forgotten that I sent him the note and that I had, indeed, seen cedar waxwings. I also sent him a photo of a cedar waxwing that stopped in my yard.

The day after I received Paul (aka Kenneth)’s email and while I was waiting to board a plane for Seattle, I received an email from “Jerry’s Rogue Jets, Oregon’s one and only mail boat tour, delivering Fun Since 1895!” I was confused since we were headed to Oregon as soon as we picked up our rental car and thought that perhaps Clare had booked a mail boat tour (whatever that is). I checked the invoice and saw that it was another case of someone using the wrong email address. This time it was a woman named Amy. Luckily her telephone number was also on the invoice so I called it and left a message. She replied with a text message about an hour later, just as I was boarding the plane.

Hi- thank you for the heads up on the invoice. Corrected. Sorry for the trouble. You are the original waxwing! I’m #26.

Some people would not bother setting people straight about email address mistakes, but I think it is the right thing to do. Not that you have to go overboard, but just because waiting for an email can be a pain. The replies I have received have always been pleasant and the people have always been thankful and I have had, albeit brief, conversations with these people with whom we share a love of one genus of bird.

I am sure I will continue to receive misdirected emails and I am sure I will continue to reply.